George outplayed James - the four-time league MVP - for much of the fourth quarter and overtime, but that’s not something you can count on more than once in a series. When you have the chance to beat the Heat in their house, you have to capitalize.
The Heat has lost three games since Super Bowl Sunday in which James has played, so the task of winning four out of seven games was hard enough. The Pacers essentially have to win five out of seven against the defending champions after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
After the game, Vogel explained his rationale that he worried about the quicker Chris Bosh getting an open shot with Hibbert ranging out to the perimeter. This answer is completely inexcusable. Indiana was the best defensive team in the NBA this season, and Vogel¹s biggest weapon on that defense was Hibbert. You don¹t take your best weapon out of play in the game¹s biggest moment.
Just this past Saturday, Hibbert’s block on a dunk attempt at the rim by Carmelo Anthony sparked an Indiana rally to finish off the Knicks and put the Pacers into the conference finals. Maybe the Heat would have hit a game-winning jumper if Hibbert had stayed in the game, but at least Indiana wouldn¹t be left with the sick feeling they have now. This isn¹t all on Vogel - George allowed James to go right around him and score the winning bucket and no one rotated over to contest the layup.
Indiana showed it can play with the Heat, but that might not be enough to win tonight.
The Pacers took every punch Miami threw at them in Game 1, but the feeling that they should be up 1-0 will haunt them for the next 24 hours, while they are peppered with questions about Vogel’s ill-fated substitution.
Today’s Game 2 can’t come soon enough, but will it really matter? Indiana’s odds were long enough before the series started, but now they are behind the eight ball. Game 2 has essentially turned into a must-win game. That’s how quickly things can change in the playoffs.